from the world's big
The Link Between War and Bioengineered Humans
The U.S. military is investing in all kinds of augmentation – pills you ingest, body armor you can wear, and machine parts you can add to your body.
Bioengineered humans are people who have been biologically upgraded through machine implants, genetic manipulation and drugs. Together, they herald what is popularly known as the coming post-human or Human 2.0 era. Augmentation is any bodily intervention that enhances human function and was not initiated because of a pathological deficiency. The only area where elective augmentation is obvious in everyday life is in cosmetic surgery such as veneers and drugs that enhance human capability and endurance like Viagra.
Biomimicry and bio-enhancement are becoming far more sophisticated. Scientists can now grow new organs in the lab, for example, and 3D bioprinters where they can be printed are being developed by companies like Organovo. However, the incentive to augment the physical strength of the human body is something that most of us don’t care about deeply on a daily basis. “I don’t need to run faster. I have a car,” said a friend when we proposed the advantages of having a robotic foot. Running faster, X-ray vision, hearing at frequencies that only wolves and dogs can hear, having photogenic memory: all this sounds good but none of us would spend the time or money to acquire them because the advantages are not immediately clear. Unlike plastic surgery, which makes us immediately more attractive to the opposite sex, it is unclear what a new kidney would afford me if my current one functions reasonably well.
Of course, there are a number of reasons why we would want to invest in bio-enhancements, such as living longer with loved ones and eliminating susceptibility to malaria in Africa. But the private sector will not pay for the high cost of research based on these lofty goals and the government is already crumbling under debt and budget constraints. Human 2.0 would likely be a pipe dream if it wasn’t for one group which is always looking for a superior human: the army.
The military is on a warpath to create the world’s first Super Soldier, who can see further, fight longer, process information faster and recover sooner from injury. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the agency specifically responsible for the development of new military technology, has been funding augmentation projects around the world (see a short list here). Soldiers also face more physical trauma in war than people in any other profession. The need to restore functionality in injured soldiers and the large number of funds the Army makes available to fulfil it drives and pushes research in biomimicry across academia and corporatiosn.
The incredible effort in creating sophisticated prosthetics by Hugh Herr’s Biomechantronics lab at MIT was recently given a further boost with a grant of $7.2 million by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The grant was specifically provided to fund biohybrid limbs that will restore function to amputees and will in fact be attached to the body and receive direct input from the body and brain. The biohybrid legs could not only restore but also potentially enhance the capability, speed and endurance of amputees, ultimately making them ‘better than human’. In a similar investment, the Army just awarded $34.5 million to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to continue research on a robotic arm that actually takes commands from your brain. When you want to move your natural arm, you think you want to it to move and it moves as a result of signals sent from your brain to your arm. Imagine the same mind control over your prosthetic arm. The difference between the natural and robotic arm would then just be that one never ages, is not susceptible to disease, is stronger and can always be upgraded to a superior version.
The research in regenerative medicine, which has led to the success of Anthony Atala’s work in growing organs in the laboratory, was also funded partly by the Department of Defense that wanted to assist veterans severely wounded in the war. Even many of the advances in facial reconstruction were funded by the Army after World War II and then commercialized into cosmetic surgery.
The military is investing in all kinds of augmentation – pills you ingest, body armor you can wear, and machine parts you can add to your body. The most recent buzz in the news was about Lockheed Martin’s HULC Military Exoskeleton which is a of a hydraulically powered titanium body suit or exoskeleton that allows soldiers to carry weights up to 200 pounds for long periods of time without feeling the full burden of the heavy weight. Soldiers can also run with this load on any type of terrain. See this video for details and flashback to the movie Iron Man.
Peter W. Singer’s book Wired for War is a must read on the future of military warfare and includes the efforts of the US army to augment soldiers. In his great TED talk, Singer talks about how Japan is building robots to care for elderly people, but in the US we’re building robots to kill people. Will our efforts in human augmentation always be subservient to the threat of war? One can only hope world peace is not antithetical to the desire for such scientific progress.
Ayesha and Parag Khanna explore human-technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics at The Hybrid Reality Institute.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.